2017-09 Two-potter eagle-tail seed jar

Object ID:
2017-09

Artist:
Hisi Nampeyo, Steve Lucas

Dimensions:
4.375 h X 10.1875 w

 

This one pot had two makers and two lives and is an example of persistent beauty, a new rendition of  Nampeyo’s more casual eagle-tail jar 2005-16.

As on Nampeyo’s jar, the design on 2017-09 is enlivened by 1) the contrast between the linear tails and the curvalinear wing elements amd 2) the use of negative space to frame the painted image.  Like Nampeyo, color integrates the design, but here the technique is different: the color of the background integrates by highlighting the cross-shaped back design.

While the eage-tail design is often used (see “Category List”), no rendition is more elegant that than on pot 2017-09.  The top design is (almost) monochromatic, black paint on plain clay, but the vivid blushing of the background contrasts with the design, and this combination is an eye magnet.  The rich color and uneven blushing of the unpainted surface are evidence of variations in the heat of an outdoor, dung-fueled firing.  Both Hisi (Quotskuyva) Nampeyo and Steve Lucas signed the pot and I am guessing that Steve formed the vessel and Hisi did the original painting.

The form of pot 2017-09 (flying-saucer shape  with a slight lip) was characteristic of prehistoric Sikyatki pottery and was adopted by Nampeyo.  Her rendition of this design (2005-16)  is painted on  a pot of the same shape but with thicker walls than 2017-09.   The walls of pot 2017-09 are unusually thin and even and thus this pot is surprisingly light for its size.  When tapped with a finger, the pot rings with a somewhat high pitch.  A pure high-pitch resonance is evidence that a pot was kiln-fired.  The sound of this pot is less certain.

As detailed in the “Purchase History” below, the jar was first sold about seven years before I bought it; the design was scratched  by its wrapping paper when shipped; it was returned by the purchaser  and then was repainted by either Hisi or Steve before finally being sold to me.  The repainted design was fired-on; the pot was not merely over-painted.  The original purchaser sent me a photograph of the pot before it was damaged and re-fired.  Notice that the variation and intensity of the blushing were originally subtle:

Original appearance of the seedjar after first firing.

I believe the increased blushing the pot is due to it having been dung-fired a second time and this double firing account for the fairly high-pitched sound when tapped with a finger.

The vivid and varied blushing of the pot is like a golden sunset of clouds.  Against this background the black design is painted with a very precise and light hand and is repeated four times on a matte finish.  The black paint is particularly consistent and dark and thus sharply contrasts with the blushed golden background.  Each of the four renditions of design contain a set of four tails.  Each tail has a black J-shaped area that incorporates the tip and extends to form a black rectangle.  The unpainted surface of each tail merge into a unpainted area that connects the four tails.  Easily overlooked is a maroon Z-shaped line that borders the black segement of each tail and separates it from the unpainted surface.  The result is an almost subliminal variation of color that enriches the eagle-tail design.

The waist of the pot is decorated with an unbroken thick black stripe.  Below, the bowl is covered with a micaeous red-maroon slip.   A group of younger Hopi potters were trained by Dextra Quotskuyva, including daughter Hisi Quotskuyva’s companion Loren Ami, grandson Lowell Cheresposy, and nephew Steve Lucas.  All of these potters at times have used the same red-maroon micaeous slip seen on 2017-09 to cover the lower half of their pots. (See 2011-23, 2011-26 and 2010-23).

Pot 2017-09 and two of Mark Tahbo’s creations (monochromatic jar 1992-02 and his bird-man plate 2018-08) are arguably the most elegant pots in this collection.

Purchase History:
Purchased with a phone bid from Alterman Galleries and Auctioneers on August 12, 2017 (Lot #295). The pot was originally sold by Alterman’s in 2010 but the paint was damaged in shipping and it was returned to the gallery. Alterman’s asked either Hisi or Steve to repair the painting and this was done. The pot was subsequently offered at several different Alterman auctions before I purchased it. A few years later this website received several emails from the original purchaser and they offered some additional provenance for the pot: "Hello: I may have e-mailed before about your excellent website, but if so it was certainly some years ago. I was just having a browse, and saw that you now have a Steve/Hisi jar that was from Altermann Auctions. I am the person who originally bought it from them, and who found a lot of paint was stuck to the wrapping paper not to the jar. They offered to have Steve repaint it, but the incident had given me an unhappy experience, and I knew I would never fully appreciate the jar because of it. That's why I returned it to them. I'm glad it found a home in your superb collection. I know you are interested in the provenance of the pieces in your collection, so I thought you might like to know that it came to Altermann's from Marti Struever. ...Unfortunately, I don't recall whether she obtained it directly from Steve and Hisi, or if it had a previous owner. Best wishes from another avid collector and admirer of Hopi pottery, (Name)" [I still had several questions about the pot's provenance and asked them of the original purchaser. He kindly responded with two additional emails]: "Unfortunately I don't have any facts to answer your questions, but I will certainly give you my thoughts on what happened. As I recall, the original auction information didn't state who made the jar and who painted it. But the delicacy of the lines certainly looked to me more like Hisi's work at her best than Steve's........... I interpreted the comment that they could have Steve repair the lost paint, rather than have Hisi do it... I doubt that he completely repainted it, and I would have expected that it needed to be refired even with just replacing the lost paint, but I'm guessing on that point. I remember that the actual appearance of the jar was a little different to the auction photograph. I would say that it had been traditionally fired originally, but the slip was quite dull - not at all glossy as in the photograph..... If it is vivid now, that is the result of whatever Steve did to it. ………I've just found the original 2010 Altermann webpage: http://www.altermann.com/gallery/pages/c110u10862.htm Comparing it with your photo, the firing blushes that are so obvious in your photo are present on the original, but less noticeable. I certainly don't recall that they stood out as much in reality. Maybe a second firing enhanced them."